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Sheep in the Midst of Wolves


The Palestinians were familiar with the contrast between sheep and wolves. Being innocent and defenseless animals, the sheep were acceptable for Temple sacrifice. God considered Israel as His sheep and God Himself their shepherd. Jesus presented himself as a good shepherd who takes care of his sheep, risking his life (Jn 10:1-18). “I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me” (Jn 10:14). Jesus used the term sheep for his disciples and wolves for the persecutors of the Church.

Wolves are essentially carnivorous animals that prey on sheep. Ezekiel compared the officials of Israel to “wolves tearing prey, shedding blood and destroying lives to extort profit” (Ezek 22:27). Jesus used the same comparison for the persecutors of the Church as the wolves that attack the defenseless faithful, the sheep. Like the sheep, the disciples of Jesus are not supposed to fight back or use force for their pursuit.
Jesus predicted the persecution so his missionaries might be mentally empowered to face the challenges in their task. During the sermon on the mount, Jesus told the disciples: “Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Mt 5:11-12). After this teaching, Jesus himself underwent such torture and death on the cross.

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